Racing Under Saddle kicked off its 2012 season on both sides of the border. At Historic track, two divisions were contested with Windsun Dixie, ridden by Leigh Nichol winning in 2:07 while in the second division, Keepin The Chips, ridden by Jenny Melander was victorious in setting a world record over the half mile track in 2:00.3.
While the fans at Historic Track were receptive and enjoyed the monté races, the tilts were not overly competitive as many of the horses jumped off stride during their respective heats. The first division winner, Windusn Dixie was a 13 length winner with the real race being for second where Saver finished one length ahead off the fast-closing Winuendo who was far back at the start. In the second tilt, it was more exciting as Keepin The Chips beat Armbro Doyle in a 3 1/2 length victory in the world record effort.
Meanwhile, at Mohawk Racetrack, a much better show for the fans was presented in the Canada Day exhibition when I've Got It All (Marielle Enberg) won in 1:59 with a late closing burst which was assisted when the You'll Never Walk Alone jumped off stride in the deep stretch.
The difference, I suspect, is the amount of preparedness the horses went through. While I can't speak for the Canadian event, the horses in the Goshen event have been actively racing up to this event. For the most part, the riders had to obtain mounts from owners and trainers who generously offered their horses for the exhibition races, so I suspect the amount of training miles were minimal, especially under race-like conditions, which is understandable with the purses being only $950. Couple this with the fact the entire stretch was lined with people and Goshen's grandstand is right up against the track, the noise may have been somewhat disruptive. With the Meadowlands hosting a $15,000 purse, I suspect those horses will be much better prepped.
Of course, this go-around of racing under saddle is still a trial and error process. While the riders needed to be licensed by going through a practical in front of the judges, there is no such requirement for the horses. It is probably too late for this year, but next year, horses should be required to qualify if it doesn't show a clean line under saddle. Of course, this will require more commitment from trainers, so it would be a great help if more tracks, with the help of local horsemen, would step up to offer exhibition races with purses sufficient enough to merit attention. This doesn't mean purses need to be $15,000; but at least equivalent to the lowest class racing at the track.
With the help of those involved in this year's racing under saddle series, the march towards pari-mutuel monté races has begun. Catch it at its beginning by coming out to the track when these races appear at your local racetrack.